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The catalogue for the exhibition Tumbas (1963) by Juan Antonio Roda consists of a two-page leaflet; on the first page, which is fully illustrated, is the exhibition title and artist’s name. On the next page, there are four paragraphs written by the art critic Marta Traba, the director of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá at the time. The short text legitimizes the Tumbas series on the basis of it being a work that was unquestionably original. Traba believed that after many years, Juan Antonio Roda had succeeded in expressing his own art language in a work of abstract art.


The series Tumbas (1963) by Juan Antonio Roda, the Spanish artist based in Colombia (1921–2003) became a milestone in national art history, since this work inaugurated the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá at its original site on October 31, 1963. The catalogue was written to be distributed among the visitors at the inaugural event, explaining the work of one of the artists considered modern by the nascent MAM. While she was director, the Argentine arts organizer and critic living in Colombia, Marta Traba (1923–83), would write the texts for most of the exhibition catalogues for the museum.


In 1955, Juan Antonio Roda arrived in Colombia, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Upon his arrival, the painter was already a mature artist, and eight years later, he had established himself in the local art scene. In this brief text on Tumbas, Roda’s work was characterized as genuine through its use of the traditional elements of painting—space, movement, composition, line, and color—to appropriate an idea that did not rely on figures. In Traba’s opinion, the quality of this abstract painting is at a higher level than Roda’s earlier approaches, among which she mentions the Escoriales (1961). Traba was convinced that with Tumbas, Roda had emerged from under the shadow of Alejandro Obregón (1920–92), whom she considered the ultimate practitioner of modern art in Colombia. Here she states that “For the first time, Roda is Roda, without approximations, or holding himself back, or timidity.” 


For another document related to this artist, see “Dentro de lo abstracto, lo mío es lo menos abstracto” [doc. no. 1092563].

Alexandra Mesa Mendieta
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Fernando Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia.
Courtesy of Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Colombia